The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Autism Advisory Group (AAG) met on 1 August 2019 to discuss the implementation of the recently announced Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) remediation plan to resolve delays and backlogs for children with disability in accessing supports.
The AAG’s feedback on the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) ECEI approach and delays experienced by families has been instrumental in the development of the remediation plan, announced by the Minister for the NDIS, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, on 26 June 2019 (External website).
The remediation plan will be rolled out this month, and includes 6 month interim NDIS plans for children experiencing wait times greater than 50 days between an access decision and getting an NDIS plan.
The AAG agreed it would continue to work closely with the NDIA to ensure the remediation plan is effective in resolving the delays and reducing the backlog for children and families.
The AAG discussed how best to utilise established Autism Advisors under the NDIS. It was agreed the NDIA will establish a pilot in September 2019 in Tasmania and Victoria to trial improved linkages with Autism Advisors and ECEI Partners to support families prepare for the access, planning and implementation phases of the NDIS.
The AAG has met eight times since it was established in July 2018 to provide advice and feedback to ensure the NDIA is taking an informed approach to issues relating to autism and the NDIS that is collaborative and evidence-based.
The AAG’s priorities over the last 12 months have included participant experience and plans, and staff training and expertise, with further work to be undertaken on agreed key areas.
The AAG has previously examined NDIA data on outcomes for participants with autism, and at the August meeting the AAG welcomed the recent public release of the NDIA Outcomes for participants with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report. The AAG agreed further work was required on delivering better outcomes for adults with autism, particularly around health and employment.
The AAG members committed to continuing to work in partnership on improving the outcomes for all Australians on the autism spectrum.
A4 appreciates any progress towards improving outcomes for Autistic Australian, but is concerned that the AAG took so long since it started in June 2018 to make this progress. The AAG met 8 times before it released its first "communique" telling the ASD community what the AAG is doing.
The Minister's remediation plan for the NDIS's ECEI Approach (announced above):
- needs to be documented and explained. What is the Minister's remediation plan? What issues does it address? And how? The ASD community may need more detail before it can endorse the Minister's plan.
- should have been subject to consultation/engagement with the ASD community before being rolled out - it's unclear whether the AAG even discussed which and how the plan would address issues and concerns.
- apparently does not address on-going problems such as excessive delays in the NDIS internal review process and the AAT review process.
The recently-released NDIS data on outcomes for autistic people is a good start but does not document the number AAT internal reviews conducted, the number of external reviews and what outcomes were achieved. It does not set real baselines needed to see if the Minister's remediation plan works. Without that data we simply cannot know whether the Minister's plan is effective.
The NDIS AAG need to focus on disability related issues; health and employment issues, like education, are outside the NDIS area of responsibility. The Government need separate advisory processes for those areas.
The Australian Autism Alliance, through Amaze, released its Priorities for the Autism Advisory Group to address document - see below. There remains a lot of work for the AAG. Hopefully, further NDIS improvement for autistic participants will arrive quicker and involve better consultation.
Note: A4 has only indirect involvement in the AAG through its membership of the Australian Autism Alliance.